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Parents' Guide to

Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Shocking, tragic docu on first openly gay soccer player.

Movie NR 2017 80 minutes
Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story Poster Image

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This documentary is a nuanced, warts-and-all documentary on the first "footballer" to come out as gay. Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story does a masterful job at presenting the complexities inside and outside Fashanu's life. Fashanu overcame abandonment issues when his mother put him and his brother up for adoption, and found in soccer a way to overcome the extreme racial tensions in the UK during the 1960s and '70s. His star rose quickly, and as he compiled legendary game-winning goals, he signed what was at the time a lucrative contract for 1 million pounds. But this documentary also paints the portrait of a troubled man desperate for fame who lived a flashy lifestyle and, while the first "out" gay professional soccer player, only did it when a tabloid offered him money to do so. It shows a man who consorted with male prostitutes, had scandalous affairs with conservative politicians, and was eventually accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy before committing suicide, in part, to avoid trial and possible jail time.

What is especially incredible and shocking about this documentary is the way it uses the historical context of the times to provide a better understanding of the world and culture in which Fashanu lived. Racist speeches from politicians of the 1960s, racist jokes in British television comedies, speeches from conservative British politicians of the '80s and '90s (including Margaret Thatcher and John Major) condemning homosexuality as an affront to "traditional values," and an incredibly ignorant comedy routine by Eddie Murphy are hard to watch. It makes one wonder how it might have been for Fashanu had he come up in relatively enlightened times. Overall, this is an engrossing documentary, tragic on so many levels, that is best for mature teens and up.

Movie Details

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